When bands list their influences publicly, I’m apt to cross at least a few of those names off a list of potential name-drops. Whether or not those tributaries contributed to the intellectual process of music-making is irrelevant. Many bands resemble their idols only with a squint and a head-tilt. Yet The Crawling’s list of Bolt Thrower, Entombed, My Dying Bride, and Novembre reads like a playbill, each entry more accurate than the next. With big shoes to fill, can debut Anatomy of Loss anger/sadden all of its proud papas?
The Crawling’s brand of death/doom marries elements known for their compatibility, but with a typically unseen slant. Expectations of woebegone vignettes and plaintive melodies run parallel to death metal tropes not usually associated with the Peaceville Three and their ilk. The sad sack melodies, like those on “Poison Orange,” come across as beefed-up interpretations of My Dying Bride, occasionally flecked with Novembre and Draconian. Yet unlike MDB, the tempo very rarely reaches full-stop. Opener “An Immaculate Deception” sounds exactly as you’d expect, but rattles off at the pace of a band intent on holding your attention. Scalding gutturals have a touch of the extreme about them, and at times it’s easy to forget the “doom” portion of this double-D. Anatomy of Loss churns out Bolt Thrower grinds just as often as it depicts a world gone sad. “Poison Orange” flips front-end doom into back-half death without missing a beat, while spiraling sections of Swedish meatgrinder “All Our Failings” could fit an Entombed tracklist quite easily. Follow-up “The Right to Crawl” in turn cycles classic Katatonia and heated grind-and-chug, balancing the two with surprising capability.
Run times unsurprisingly trend upward as the album progresses, though The Crawling mercifully shy away from sprawling twelve-minute MDB odysseys. Unfortunately, the tracks show their length more often than not. That capable pairing on “The Right to Crawl” compels initially, as most riffs on the album do. But The Crawling push them too far, stretching four minutes into six. The pattern of turning good material rote via identical loops shows up time and again on Anatomy. “Violence, Vanity, and Neglect” suffers the most, as quality chunks are overshadowed by the band’s inability to simply end the song. Death passages serve as de facto breaks in the misery, but often fail to develop song structures that remain largely static. Most songs settle on one or two riffs and never let them go. To their credit, those riffs never feel tacked on and excel in short doses. You could crack your tooth on the well-hewn nugget of “All Our Failings.” It’s the perfect length for that type of limited riff-cycling.
The gutturals show off quality pedigree, as expected from longtime members of the Northern Irish death circuit. Honey for Christ frontman Andy Clarke leads this classic three-piece, though bassist Stuart Rainey’s backing growls bolster the voicework. Though the lyrics may grate at times, there’s no denying the scathing effectiveness of the vocals. A complete absence of cleans sacrifices the genre’s trademark tenderness, but The Crawling get along quite well without it. Gary Beattie (Zombified) shows off significant range on the skins, playing to both sides of The Crawling’s coin. Despite some noticeable compression issues on my 128 kbps promo, Anatomy of Loss sounds great. Hefty guitar tones service the dichotomy of sorrow and hate equally, while Clarke’s production ensures each member of the trio is clear and contributory.
With résumés stretching as far back as the 90’s, The Crawling have surely been around the block once or twice. That experience shows in their ability to keep their debut focused and simple. Improvement and innovation may come with time, but for now, the band has a solid record they can hang their hat on. It might not reach the heights of their forebears, but Anatomy of Loss is surely a good start.